Thanksgiving Stew, claims Josie Ortega, is a simple vegetable beef stew recipe that will bring communities together to celebrate a nostalgic holiday full of gratitude.
Easy, Nostalgic Thanksgiving Stew
While hosts and serious chefs focus on planning the big Thursday meal and getting the traditional Thanksgiving dishes just right, the reality remains that we’ve all still got to eat in the days leading up to and following the fourth Thursday in November.
At this time of year, my mind—or maybe my stomach—reliably craves the vegetable beef stew I ate as a child. Even more powerful than the taste memory, the smell of what we called “Indian Stew” takes me straight back to elementary school. In fact, my mom originally acquired the simple Thanksgiving Stew recipe from one of our annual grade school traditions.
Thanksgiving Stew Recipe
Ahead of the holiday, each family received a note home with an ingredient assignment, and brought one of the following to school on the day of the big Thanksgiving program:
- Ground beef
- Lima beans
- V8 Juice
- You’ll also use salt, pepper, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce if you have it!
As in the story Stone Soup, what begins as nothing becomes something greater—and more delicious—than the sum of its parts. And here’s how to put it together:
- 1 onion diced
- 2 tbsp butter or olive oil
- 1.5-2 lbs ground beef
- 4-5 carrots
- 3 lbs potatoes
- lima beans frozen bag
- corn frozen bag
- 32 oz V8 Juice
- Worcestershire sauce
- Cholula Hot Sauce or other favorite hot sauce
- Dice onion.
- Cut carrots potatoes into bite size pieces. My mom likes to use red potatoes and leave the skin on.
- Brown onion in butter or olive oil in a dutch oven or large soup pot.
- Add ground beef, breaking up as it cooks.
- Pour in V8 juice.
- Add carrots, potatoes, lima beans.
- Season with salt and pepper, Cholula, and Worchestershire sauce.
- Simmer until potatoes are cooked, about 15 minutes.
- Finally, add frozen corn at the end.
Serve and consume with gratitude! Thanksgiving Stew pairs especially nicely with cornbread. (Here’s a cornbread recipe that seems similar to my grandmother’s.)
Getting Everyone Involved
This Thanksgiving Stew is a fairly straightforward recipe that’s nice to have as an autumn and winter standard. But Thanksgiving Stew also lends itself to a little bit of fun cooking with kids. At the least, a young helper can dump ingredients into the pot. More capable sous chefs might cut potatoes and read the recipe to double check that everything’s included.
You might assign ingredients and cook together if you find yourself in charge of a Thanksgiving class party or activity. (God bless you!) Thanksgiving Stew would also work well for a relaxed Friendsgiving where each guest can bring an ingredient, emphasizing the way everyone contributed to the meal.
Thanksgiving Stew Memories
When I eat Thanksgiving Stew, I remember gathering in the school gymnasium to recite Thanksgiving poems, seeing the actual size of the Mayflower taped onto the gym floor, showing off our Pilgrim buckle hats.
My kids don’t necessarily have these exact same traditions… but we do have the stew. Let’s believe that when the kids contribute and help with the cooking, they’ll be excited to eat the food, too! The aroma alone will put everyone in the right frame of mind to make turkey handprints.
My 5-year-old reported, “This is delicious soup, Mama!” (Disclosure: the 8-year old worked around the lima beans.) With either picky or adventurous eaters, we can express gratitude for the food we have, just like at the big Thanksgiving meal. We can talk about where each ingredient came from, about communities coming together, about celebrating that all of us have something to offer.